HISTORIC DECEMBER – a monthly digest of historic dates relating to the London Underground

December 1863

December 1863 saw the withdrawal of through Great Western Railway trains along the Metropolitan Railway, at least for a while. The Great Western, you will recall from an earlier blog, actually worked the Metropolitan when the line opened in January 1863, but owing to disagreements about several matters withdrew from the arrangement in August, leaving the Metropolitan to run the line itself, with locomotives and carriages hired in from other railways. However, once the Great Western ceased working the line the relationship improved. The GWR actually found the Metropolitan useful as a means of getting its own trains from the outer reaches of London to the centre (for even then Paddington was regarded as rather inconvenient).

An agreement was reached on 1 October 1863 when, subject to some trifling conditions, the Great Western was permitted to run ‘so many trains over the Metropolitan Railway as they might find convenient’. Whilst on the Metropolitan, they were also to carry local traffic and both railways committed to selling tickets for all stations at which the trains called, irrespective of who owned them. Through trains began working immediately, but for some reason the agreement was for just three months so on 31 December the through trains stopped. The service that began on 1 October was between Windsor and Farringdon Street, five trains a day. In fact the service began in the form of through carriages which had to be attached to, or detached from, existing trains terminating at the main line station, involving some shunting, which must have taken the edge off things. This may have contributed to the GWR letting the agreement lapse until something better was thought out. A new agreement was entered into on 29 April 1864 and through trains resumed from 2 May, seemingly dedicated trains this time.

December 1913

Perhaps the most significant of several events during December 1913 was the opening of the Bakerloo Line to Paddington – a seemingly modest extension from Edgware Road. As conceived, the Bakerloo finished at Baker Street. In 1900, after construction had started, the company recognized that Paddington was a much more satisfactory terminus and obtained the necessary powers to get there. The idea was for the Bakerloo to carry on from the Marylebone area beneath Bell Street and then in a westerly direction, in due course running beneath Harrow Road and Bishops Road to a station west of the GWR near Eastbourne Terrace (the tracks themselves finishing somewhere near Gloucester Terrace); interchange with the GWR station was to be achieved by means of a long subway. This left the line pointing south-west, apparently with the idea of further extension to Royal Oak – represented by a public house further along Bishops Road. But what then? Any further extension would be likely to bring it into conflict with other railways offering more direct routes. At any rate this created sufficient misgivings for the extension to be deferred until the rest of the Bakerloo line was more advanced.

Once the Americans had got hold of the Bakerloo they, too, wanted to get to Paddington but had been committed to starting the extension from Edgware Road as work was already in hand. Their plan was a westerly extension that was constrained to approach the main line station from the north and ended up pointing south-east. This would have provided excellent interchange, but left the line in a hopeless position for future extension; it was virtually pointing back at itself. So Edgware Road was eventually opened as a temporary terminus and Paddington went into abeyance, with too many other things for the railway to worry about.

In 1909 the Underground Group found that its interest in reaching Paddington was likely to be influenced by discussions with the London & North Western Railway about joint operation of electric trains to Watford. That is not central to this story beyond placing a demand on the Paddington extension to end up pointing roughly north. This was extremely difficult given that Edgware Road was already to the north of Paddington station. On the other hand, Paddington was best served at its southern end where all the station facilities were located. The only way these conflicts could be reconciled at reasonable cost was to begin the extension at the end of the platforms at Edgware Road and head south-west to a point immediately south of Praed Street (under the Circle Line station) and then turn north-west, by means of a vicious curve, to run along the eastern edge of the main line station. The platforms were built just to the north of the curve, and reversing sidings beyond, extending to a point under where the Hammersmith & City station is located today. Work began in June 1911 and the new station opened on 1st December 1913. The GWR contributed £18,000 towards the works and made wayleaves available in order to get the best interchange they could, as they would benefit from a direct link to London’s west end.  Indeed on the day of opening a whole new raft of through bookings were introduced from the GWR’s Windsor and Reading lines to or via the London Electric Railway, of which the Bakerloo was now a part.

By splaying the platforms apart at Paddington it was possible the get the lower landing for the escalators between them; Paddington was only the second Underground station to be built from new with escalators, two Otis machines with a fixed stairway between. Unfortunately level access with the street was not possible at the top level. Today the cramped ticket hall and fact the station still has only two escalators makes the station very crowded in rush hours and it can be very difficult to clear the platforms. Crossrail works, we are assured, will provide the necessary relief.

The November blog covered the widening of the Metropolitan Railway between Finchley Road and Wembley Park. All that it is necessary to say here is that the next section opened on 17 December 1913 at Willesden Green. This station had opened on 24 November 1879 with just two platforms, one either side of each track. The ‘up’ platform, on the north side, was converted into an island in 1906 and formed a bay road for terminating trains, and there was another track beyond that acting as an engine run round and headshunt for the sidings, further west. The 1913 4-tracking scheme appropriated the bay road with the platform serving the new ‘down’ fast road (today’s southbound Jubilee Line) and the run round loop became new ‘up’ fast road with a platform crammed in against the wall of the roadway, giving rise to its rather irregular shape. This section of widened railway ran much of the way to Kilburn where heavy engineering meant work beyond was much slower. The new shelters and footbridge at Willesden Green were not finished until 1914.

On 31 December 1913 the Metropolitan Railway announced that the reconstruction of Baker Street station was complete. This was not entirely true as the design of the station anticipated the construction of a hotel above the station into which the station frontage would be a harmonious part. It was the harmonious part that was completed and left in a condition expecting other works to follow on, but they did not. Work on the upper building did not commence until the late 1920s and behind the hoardings the only thing that was expanding was the buddleia.

The Baker Street station that opened in 1863 had ticket offices at the western end of the platforms, one on either side of Marylebone Road. The entrance to the platforms was where the stairs are to the overbridge that was installed as part of this reconstruction (the bridge is actually dated 1911). When the Metropolitan & St Johns Wood Railway opened it had two platforms with an entirely separate entrance from the south ends of its platforms via a long passage into Marylebone Road. In due course a low level connection was installed to connect these platforms with the older ones at their east end. When it became clear that through trains from the St Johns Wood line to the City were inconvenient, later reconstructions reduced the two ‘through’ tracks to one with a platform each side. To the east were two bay roads, each served by a single platform.

After electrification, station reconstruction became essential as it was desirable to restore through running to the City (meaning rearranging all the St Johns Wood platforms) as well as consolidating and modernizing the station facilities, concentrating them on a large new ticket hall nearer the junction between the two railways. This was incredibly difficult work involving numerous phases of activity that resulted in the platform and ticket hall layout pretty much as we see it today. The first job was to convert the western platform (adjacent to the single track through line) into an island, creating today’s platform 1 (the other face becoming platform 2, more or less unchanged). This allowed the other platform face of the through road to be taken out of use (and the bay road behind it) allowing the new southbound through line to be laid in, and part of what is today platform 3 (which during this phase work must have been quite short). The really tricky bit was then to reverse the positions of the remaining bay platform (against the wall) and its track so that a new island platform was formed with the track for platform 4 against the wall.

While all this was going on the new ticket hall had to be constructed across the site, connections made into the Circle Line platforms and luggage lifts installed. At the north end of the ‘St Johns Wood’ station was a bridge, originally installed to link the Metropolitan Railway station into the back of the Bakerloo one in 1906. This had also to be reconstructed to suit the new platform arrangements and it is interesting that a plan of this showed that passing provision had already been made for it to lead down to no fewer than seven platforms, a scheme obviously not carried out. The bridge, in its reconstructed form is still there today, though the old Bakerloo ticket hall (next to the Metropolitan substation) is no longer there.

December 1963

In more recent times, on 13 December 1963 the last train of the Metropolitan Line’s A62 stock entered service (units 5228+5231). The loss of locomotive-hauled trains meant some track simplification was possible and the locomotive spur at Baker Street (next to the signal box) was removed, completion being effected from 16 December 1962, together with removal of all the shunting signals that locomotive changeovers required. The removal of the loco spur meant lifting a section of bridge rail which had been put in there, for some reason, probably in 1913. There is, incidentally, still a small amount of bridge rail left at Neasden depot which I believe was recovered from the Central Line where it was being removed at the same time Neasden was being built. I do hope someone has the wit to preserve a small section.

December 1963 was also the month that most of the demolition work took place on the old South Acton branch. The line closed in February 1959 but as is the way of these things the recovery or destruction of the assets actually costs money and is not to be rushed into. Leaving Acton Town, the line swept across an area formerly used as siding space until it reached what was later the entrance to Acton Works where it struck north and crossed Bollo Lane, proceeding beyond on embankment whence its level fell to approach, but not quite arrive at, the level of the North London Line at South Acton station. There were two bridges: Bollo Lane (just mentioned) and Palmerston Road. The former was a proper bridge with a road underneath it with traffic and pedestrians and that kind of thing. The other bridge was an apology of a structure which I don’t think vehicles could actually negotiate, though there was nowhere they could go anyway. Two observations might be made. First it is very unusual for an entire railway embankment to be simply taken away, but that is what happened, and I’d like to know where it went. The second is that for some reason or other demolition of bridges is ‘difficult’. The Bollo Lane bridge was suitable uncooperative and the structure came apart not quite as planned with a beam crashing into the road and smashing a water main. I recall someone who lived in the area telling me this happened on a Sunday and the road had been closed (at least to motor traffic). Nevertheless this shouldn’t have happened.

I gather bridge collapses during ‘planned’ demolition are by no means unusual though. I was told by a friend (sadly no longer with us) that much the same had happened in (I think) 1953 when the Grove Road bridge was being demolished in Hammersmith and that someone was killed. Try as I might I have not been able to confirm this story but I would like to know more about it. Discarded railways are not supposed to seek revenge like this.

Do check this blog in days to come, by which time I might have found some photographs.

About machorne

I have always lived in London and taken a great interest in its history and ongoing development. This extended into the history of its transport services, about which I have written a number of books - I have spent most of my working life working in the industry and observing changes from within, mostly to the good, but not always so. I continue to write, and have a website with half finished stuff in it so that it is at least available, if not complete. Several new books are in hand. I have many 'works in progress' and some of these can be found on my website; the we address is http://www.metadyne.co.uk
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1 Response to HISTORIC DECEMBER – a monthly digest of historic dates relating to the London Underground

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nice photo of Allsop Place where i worked. There are BTP police are based at Selbie House and you can just see a BTP car poking out.


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